Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Bouton's Final Game as a Yankee


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ANSWER to the Trivia question in the previous column:  Chico Ruiz was the player who pinch-hit for Johnny Bench in Bench's debut game. 

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What other player in Yankee history was involved in a trade with Jim Bouton?

The name Jim Bouton stirs a mix of emotions in not only baseball, but especially in Yankee-dom. From exposing some of the all-time greats as having feet of clay in his ground breaking book "Ball Four," to his marvelous two seasons with New York where he won 21 and 18 games and won two games in the World Series. When it all ended for Bouton as a Yank, it was unceremoniously not a bad outing. (Eds Note: There is a link to the actual game at the bottom of the column.)

The last game Bouton pitched for New York was June 11, 1968. Only 4825 fans saw him toss to a total of eight batters in a 9-5 Yankee loss to the White Sox. They also saw Mickey Mantle homer off Joel Horlen. To be sure, the Yankees were not very good in 1968. They would finish in 5th place with a record of 83-79-2, 20 games out of first place. They were not going to be any better with Bouton and they certainly wouldn't be any worse without him.

With the Sox leading 8-3 in the sixth, NY manager Ralph Houk brought in the righty to fill out some innings with the game pretty much out of hand. At least for these Bronx Bombers who left the word "Bomber" to past glories. 

 Bouton gave up a single to Tim Cullen, got a pair of ground outs and whiffed Buddy Bradford looking. The next inning, after Mantle's 2-run shot to make it 8-5, Bouton gave up three ground balls (one of which Mantle booted for an error) and the very last batter he faced as a Yankee, Duane Josephson, he struck out. That was it. his final line score as a New Yorker;

2 Innings, 0 Runs, 1 hits, 0 walks, 2 K's. Four days later he was sold to Seattle for $20,000 with the Yankees paying $8,000 of his $22,000 1968 salary. However, the franchise only existed on paper at that time and didn't begin play until 1969. As of June 15th, 1968 his season ended at 1-1, with a 3.68 ERA in 12 games. He was used mainly out of the bullpen in the lone season of the Pilots' existence and was traded to Houston.

Call it irony I guess that the man Bouton brought the most heat on in "Ball Four," Mickey Mantle, both made an error behind him in the final appearance and hit a home run to support him. In a matter of further irony, neither really mattered in the game, except in the line score.

Link to the actual game...

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